JSE hosts UK prime minister

19 July 2011

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) played host to visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron, South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, and a high-level government and business delegation from both countries on Monday.

Cameron, who was on his first working visit to South Africa, and Gordhan were joined by leading entrepreneur Precious Motsepe for discussions on the growing world awareness that “Africa is open for business”.

“Discussions with investors worldwide demonstrate the growing interest in Africa as an investment destination, based on the recognition that the continent’s entrepreneurs are launching and growing prosperous businesses,” JSE chief executive Russell Loubser said in a statement on Monday.

“Every blue-chip company starts as a good business idea. Support for entrepreneurs is critical to realise desired employment figures and economic growth.”

Making it easier to do business

Cameron said members of big business in the UK, such as telecoms group Vodafone, had accompanied him on his visit to South Africa.

“That’s great, they’re big investors in SA, but I also have some small and medium-sized enterprises here – because in truth, the jobs growth that you need here and we need back home will come from the start-ups,” BusinessLive reports him as saying.

“This is a great subject to be addressing, and I’m sure we’ve got a lot to learn from each other.”

He said the idea of developing an entrepreneurs’ exchange scheme enabling British and South African firms to partner was a good one, but that politicians had to do more to make it easier for entrepreneurs to raise finance, pay taxes and employ workers.

Promoting certainty, optimism

For his part, Gordhan said debates in South Africa, such as the debate over the nationalisation of the country’s mines, needed to be managed in such a way that they did not chase away investors, as foreign investment and technology were vital for the country’s growth.

“There are people who don’t know South Africa that well and our politics that well who could be … put off,” MoneyWeb reports Gordhan as saying.

“Promoting certainty and promoting optimism in our environment is as important as having our debate … so we have got to manage those processes.”

Nurturing business in Africa

As a stock exchange, the JSE says that its efforts to contribute towards the nurturing of business throughout the continent are focused on initiatives to develop its capital markets.

The exchange’s Africa Board, part of the Main Board in the equities market, enables issuers from the rest of the continent to take advantage of increased profile and capital raising opportunities through a dual listing on the JSE.

A planned Africa hub will allow clients to route orders to African exchanges using a single technological hub operated by the exchange, and strong relationships with some of the continent’s capital markets enable mutual development.

“It is through trade, investment and measures to boost entrepreneurism that Africa will realise its full potential,” says Loubser.

Huge opportunity for trade, growth

Cameron’s visit comes at a time when Africa is changing, with the continent’s economy growing by nearly 5%, and six of the ten fastest growing economies in the world being African.

As a result, the UK’s relationship with Africa is also changing from a one-dimensional relationship focussed on aid to a three-dimensional relationship focussed on aid, trade and strengthened bilateral engagement.

“I think it right for Britain to be engaged with South Africa and to be engaged with Africa as a whole,” Cameron said in a statement issued by his office. “There is a huge opportunity for trade, for growth, for jobs, including jobs at home in the UK.”

Cameron has had to cut short his African visit as a result of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal back in the UK.

He had originally planned to visit South Africa, Nigeria, Sudan and Rwanda, but will now only carry on to Nigeria before returning home early to finalise the terms and membership of an inquiry into the British media.

SAinfo reporter

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